RELEASED: November 15th 2009
DISTRIBUTED BY: BBC
SHOWRUNNER: Russell T Davies
WRITTEN BY: Russell T Davies & Phil Ford
DIRECTED BY: Graeme Harper
MUSIC BY: Murray Gold
STARRING: David Tennant, Lindsay Duncan, Peter O’Brien, Aleksander Mikic, Gemma Chan, Sharon Duncan Brewster, Chook Sibtain, Alan Ruscoe & Cosima Shaw
As Tennant’s run nears its end, the Doctor Who specials start to pick up a bit once more with The Waters of Mars.
Landing on Mars in the mid-21st century, the Doctor encounters the planet’s first human colonists, who he recalls are destined to die and, in turn, inspire future generations of humanity to venture out to the stars. But as a deadly virus begins killing off the crew members, the Doctor must question whether he can let everyone die and what rules he should follow as the last Time-Lord.
This is easily the best of the specials so far, in part because it sees the story properly reunited with the overarching theme of Tennant’s last series; namely the problem with Time-Lords ‘living too long’, and what power he can exert over the course of history as the sole remaining Time-Lord.
It allows Tennant to give a more varied performance than running around being goofy and charming as some episodes expect of him, and in Lindsay Duncan’s Adelaide Brook, he has a companion who challenges him a bit more than say, your Rose Tyler’s and Martha Jones’, which makes for an interesting dynamic, limited though it may be.
The episodes villains, the Flood, are also pretty great. Their look is horrible (in a good way), to such an extent I remember being younger and not really wanting to rewatch the episodes – not because I was scared, but because they’re off-putting. We need more monsters like those.
Furthermore, the threat they pose matches their horrible look, as it becomes clear as the episode goes on just how high the stakes are.
Of course, the real meat of the episode doesn’t come from their threat, so much as it does from The Doctor’s aforementioned struggle with his responsibilities with upholding how time should play out. We hear the phrase ‘fixed point in time’ a lot throughout Doctor Who, especially during the Matt Smith years, but there’s rarely any more dialogue given to the whats and why of that. We know it’s a moment that can’t be changed, but it’s rare that the show will actually dive into what it truly means. Why is it a fixed point? What happens if you interfere?
In a way, those questions are answered here, and adds interesting new layers to the Doctor’s outlook on history and time, while also, as always, bringing up more questions (it is Doctor Who, after all).
All-in-all, I give The Waters of Mars: